Bournemouth1 Norwich City 2

Eddie Howe’sBournemouth suffered a surprise defeat to the ten men of Norwich City at theGoldsands Stadium yesterday, after which they maintain their position at thetop of the Championship only on goal difference over promotion rivals DerbyCounty. Derby’s victory at Portman Road over Ipswich Town, thanks to anotherstrike from top scorer Chris Martin, ensured that County leapfrogged the TractorBoys into second place in the league, but level on points with the Cherries. Itended the home side’s unbeaten run in the league at (a still impressive) fourteengames.

Norwich rathersurprisingly appointed 33-year old Alex Neil as their new manager this week,after the departure of Neil Adams (who resigned on Monday), perhaps as a slightnod to the pleasing progress that the equally youthful Howe has made atBournemouth this season, taking the plaudits for a wonderful recent league runthat has seen the side play with attacking endeavor. Neil has joined the EastAnglian club from Scottish Premiership outfit Hamilton, where he performed thedual roles of player and manager. He is expected to relinquish the playing sideat Norwich after signing a one-year rolling contract with them, having leftHamilton in a solid position, third in the top league in Scotland, aftergaining them promotion the season before.

Although many observers suggest thathis inexperience of the English leagues, particularly the energy-sappingChampionship, counts against him and do not expect the Canaries to push ontowards regaining the Premier League status they enjoyed last season, it was anencouraging start to his tenure in charge at Norwich.

The home side lookedto be on their way to extending their lead at the top when midfielder MattRitchie put them in front in the first-half, but were pegged back before thebreak when Gary Hooper scored for Norwich.

It had seemed that all of the hardwork that Neil’s charges had put in to nullify their attack-minded rivals wouldbe undone, when Jonny Howson saw red after a reckless challenge on YannKermorgant midway through the second period. That is until striker CameronJerome unleashed a wonderful strike that ended up in the top corner of the netand put Norwich in front with ten minutes to play.

The ten men held onfor the win that may prove to be a massive boost to their promotion hopes asthey attempt to make up lost ground on the teams above them. Norwich hadslipped in the league since early season optimism when they seemed to bescoring for fun, and were hugely disappointing in their recent FA Cup defeat atPreston, which seems to have been the catalyst for Adams’ departure from theclub.

It was a pleasing start for Neil who, although acknowledging that his firstteam playing days may be over, has not ruled out playing in the under-21s as anoverage player to educate them within a game situation. He wants to play highenergy Football and attack the opposition, which may have been what attractedthe City hierarchy to bring him to Norwich. Beating Bournemouth gives him earlyencouragement in that aim on the way to moving the team back up the league, asthey now sit just outside the playoff places.